A thrilling last two weeks of the regular season leaves us with dramatically different BCS bowl projections than we had 14 days ago. One half of the National Championship Game has been set in stone with Notre Dame’s win over USC, but which SEC team will join them in the clash for college football’s ultimate prize?
Rose Bowl: Stanford vs. Nebraska – UCLA meets Stanford for the second time in as many weeks. The Bruins hosted the Cardinal yesterday, but the ball will be in Stanford’s court as it’s time for Jim Mora’s crew to travel to Palo Alto. The Cardinal have to be feeling good as not only did they cost Oregon a spot in the BCS National Championship Game, they’re on a six-game winning streak and if they can add insult to injury by beating the Bruins two times in a row, they’re BCS-bound yet again.
Should UCLA out-strategize the Cardinal, they’ll be seeing some familiar faces.
Nebraska faced the Washington Huskies twice in 2010, once during the regular season (a win) and again in the Holiday Bowl (a loss). With a win over Wisconsin, Nebraska will have the opportunity to win two straight rematch games and get some quick revenge for their early season stumble.
There’ll be a rematch in the Rose Bowl, but it’ll be from 1941.
Orange Bowl: Rutgers vs. Florida State – Yes, Rutgers and Louisville both lost yesterday, but the Scarlet Knights get more respect as they lost to the team that came the closest to beating Notre Dame. The Cardinals lost to Connecticut and are now on a two-game losing skid, soon to be three.
Florida State’s appearance in the ACC Championship Game is the only non-ACC thing about the game. Their opponent, Georgia Tech, will either beat the Seminoles and travel to a BCS bowl or…wait for it…not go to a bowl at all. Enjoy Charlotte, Jackets.
Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Florida – Thanks to Lane Kiffin’s brilliance, Florida had any national title hopes dashed. A Sugar Bowl clash with the Sooners seems to be in the Gators’ favor, but while Florida has won, it merely squeaked by Missouri and Louisiana-Lafayette. It looked the part of a BCS contender against Florida State, though.
Oklahoma’s hoping that Texas is able to channel RG3 in the same manner that Baylor did and topple Kansas State in Manhattan, but the Longhorns will continue to underachieve.
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Kansas State – Remember when this appeared to be a lock for the title game? The nation blinked twice and suddenly the Ducks and Wildcats appear to be ready to collide, but in Tempe as opposed to South Florida. While this tilt won’t be for the title, it sets up to be a great game if the Wildcats can copy Stanford’s style.
If Collin Klein takes home the Heisman, this is his opportunity to prove he deserved it.
BCS Championship Game: Alabama vs. Notre Dame – Three types of fans will be watching this battle for No. 1: Alabama fans, Notre Dame fans and everyone else trying to figure out whose gloating they can stand for another year.
The Irish have had their doubters all year, but they’ve won. It hasn’t always been pretty, but their record is blemish-free. Alabama was cold-cocked by Johnny Football and Texas A&M, but game planning against an angry Nick Saban defense should be anyone’s last choice.
Regardless of whether or not Notre Dame wins or loses, this game has all the makings of a low-scoring battle. It has to be for the Irish to have a chance at winning, too. Fortunately, only the Irish can claim a defense at least the equal of the Tide’s.
Either Alabama wins its third national championship in four years or Notre Dame wins its first since 1988.
Brandon Cavanaugh is a member of the Football Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter and join in on the conversation.